Find your online sales niche to drive customers to your web store

Avoid the sound of crickets chirping

So you just registered your new domain through GoDaddy, and you’ve set up an online store using their super-cool store builder. Sweet! You’ve got slick products and you’re waiting for the floodgates to open with customers pouring in to grab everything off of your virtual shelves.

Cricket chirping

OK, just give it a little more time and then watch the orders roll in….

More crickets

Hmm, something isn’t going quite as planned. You’re waiting and waiting, but no one seems to be coming to your web store except your parents and your best friend. What should you do now? How are you going to find customers online — the right customers, your online sales niche?

Obscurity on the Internet

The first step is not to despair! This is the same situation that many entrepreneurs find themselves in. It only takes persistence and being smart to climb out of that hole and start seeing success.

The Internet is a big, big place. It’s so huge that it’s hard to wrap your head around it. They don’t call it the “World Wide Web” for nothing! There are literally billions of web pages and nowhere near enough people to read and visit them all. Newborn sites are unfortunately obscure, so you have to give them a push to stand out.

Yet the beauty of the Internet is that you don’t have to grab everyone’s attention. In fact, if you play your cards right, you won’t actually need to stand out for anyone but your customers.

If you had a brick-and-mortar store you’d have to put yourself in such a location where it was most likely that your customers would pass by and notice you. And it’s the same with the Internet. Your customers will flock to you — if you put yourself in front of them. Only now you aren’t just confined to a street, town, or city. Now, your horizons are the whole world and there is no limit as to who can be your customer.

So how do you get people to find you?

Locating your target market

If you think about it, the Internet is really divided up into millions and millions of sub-groups. How about doing some introspection: on average, how many sites do you regularly visit per day? Probably email, social media, news and a few other sites related to your hobbies or interests. Even on social media, news and email, your browsing is probably limited to things that you are looking for and things that pique your interest.

The key takeaway here is niching down. The more targeted your niche is, the higher probability of your success. Otherwise you will just be banging heads with Amazon, which is not a good idea.

If you’re into archery, for instance, you probably get emails from archery-related websites and your social media profiles are connected to archery-related groups. So why not try and reverse engineer the process? If you were selling archery-related things, how would you find people who are interested in the subject?

You’d probably go to your favorite archery blogs and get in touch with the folks who run them. You would also find some of the biggest social media accounts that post archery-related stuff and get in touch with them, too.

The bigger the blog, or the bigger the following, the more powerful their influence is going to be — but it will be that much harder to get their attention, too.

Rummaging through reddit

Another good place to look is reddit, which is essentially a sophisticated online bulletin board where registered members submit content. While it’s not the best place to make sales, it’s a great place to get in touch with your audience and you’d generally be well respected if you are helpful and not salesy.

“Redditing” will help you build your reputation and also help you learn more about the needs and wants of your target market.

Before looking around, keep a few things in mind: reddit is a community site and direct sales pitches will not be taken kindly. Reddit is a long-term investment. You can learn, contribute and establish a reputation that will ultimately pay off.

Reddit paid off in a big way for Anthony Zambai of Bullet Bouquets.

The software engineer was checking out reddit one day and came across a clever idea — a flowerpot crafted with vintage bullets. Inspiration struck. A lifelong tinkerer, Anthony built a prototype bouquet with discarded bullet cartridges. Then he bought a domain — bulletbouquets.com — and built a website using GoDaddy Online Store. 

bulletbouquet

Within three days Anthony had launched his new venture and was sharing his story with the reddit community and via a new Facebook business page connected to his online store. About a month later he was making enough money to leave his day job and focus full-time on his business.  

To find your audience — and more specifically, their problems and passions — you can try two methods to search on reddit:

  • Search for the general niche, like archery.
  • Search for a group of people who would use your products.

If you were selling crocheting kits you could search for “arts and crafts” or even “crochet.”

Searching is simple: just head over to reddit and search with a broad keyword. Reddit will show you relevant subreddits as well as high-performing posts that contain your keyword.

You can also do subreddit-hopping to find your targeted subreddit. On the subreddit page sidebars there is usually a short section on guidelines and related topics that you can see to refine your audience even more.

SEO and keywords

osCTAFinally, there’s good ol’ keyword research and SEO. There are a lot of keywords out there. Not all of them get many hits per month, but a lot of targeted content around a lot of keywords adds up to directing some decent traffic your way.

At the end of the day, your ideal target customer is someone who would see you and say “where have you been all along?” Your target customer is someone who is looking for exactly what you have — if you can get enough of these customers to your store, you’ll have it made!

Image by: Mick E. Talbot via Compfight cc

Shabbir Nooruddin
Shabbir Nooruddin is an e-commerce blogger and entrepreneur that has been building e-commerce businesses and documenting his journey towards a sustainable lifestyle business. When he's not working on e-commerce, you can find him reading a book or tinkering with a DIY project. To follow Shabbir's journey, check out his blog, Bootstrapping Ecommerce.